Local Search Trends: What Drives High Rankings

Local businesses looking to improve their search rankings just got an early holiday present: Moz’s 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors Report.

While the title may not be scintillating, the contents of the report are likely to get marketers very excited. Why? Because it is based on an annual survey of well-respected SEO specialists and provides unique insights into the factors that matter most when it comes to local search.

So, what did the Moz researchers find this year? What is correlated with a high ranking? Which factors does Google appear to be prioritizing more and less? How have SEO experts been approaching local search differently over the past year?

Here are some key findings from the report.

1. The Top Local Pack Factors
When it comes to Google’s Local Pack — the highly valuable mapped results that now appear at the top most of local searches  — what has the biggest impact on ranking?

The experts surveyed say the most important factors are:

  • Proximity to the location of the searcher: Is the business close to where the person is currently located?
  • Physical address: Where is the business located?
  • Proper Google My Business (GMB) category association: Is the business classified in GMB as the same type as what the person is looking for?
  • Product/service keyword in GMB business title: Does the business’s GMB title reference the product/service keyword being searched?
  • Location keyword in GMB business title: Does the GMB title reference the area the person is in/wants the business in?

Local Search Trends: What Drives High Rankings
2. The Top Organic Factors
What about traditional organic Google search? What most impacts a local business’s website ranking in that list of results?

The experts surveyed say the top factors are:

  • Quality/authority of inbound links to the domain: Are high quality sites referencing the business’s site?
  • Domain authority of the website: Does the site have a high domain authority?
  • Diversity of inbound links to the domain: Is the site being referenced by multiple high-quality websites?
  • Topical (product/service) keyword relevance of domain content: Does the business’s site content match the keywords being searched?
  • Mobile friendly/responsive website: Does the business’s website display well on mobile devices?

Local Search Trends: What Drives High Rankings
3. The Top Foundational Factors
What are the core things that a local business must do right in order to rank well on Google search?

The experts say the foundational elements that drive high rankings are:

  • Proper GMB category association: Is the correct business type selected in Google My Business?
  • Consistency of citations on the primary data sources: Are the citations to the business — references on sites such as Yelp, restaurant review sites, etc. — correct and consistent?
  • Physical address in city of search: Is the business’s address in the city being searched?
  • Proximity of address to the point of search: Is the business nearby to the searcher?
  • Completeness of GMB listing: Has the business optimized its Google My Business listing?

Local Search Trends: What Drives High Rankings
4. The Top Competitive Difference-Makers
What makes one local business outperform another on Google search?

The experts say the top competitive difference-makers are:

  • Quality/authority of inbound links to the domain: Does the business get attention from high-quality sites?
  • Quantity of native Google reviews: Have many Google users reviewed the business?
  • Domain authority of the website: Does the site have a high domain authority?
  • Quality/authority of inbound links to GMB landing page URL: Are high-quality sites linking directly to the business’s Google My Business profile?
  • Product/service keywords in reviews: Do Google reviews for the business include the product/service keywords consumers are searching for?

Local Search Trends: What Drives High Rankings
5. The Top Negative Factors
What really hurts a local business’s search rank?

The experts say the top negative factors are:

  • Listing detected as a false business address and/or is a PO Box, UPS Mail Store: Is the address not correct? Does it appear to be false/a scam?
  • Incorrect business category: Is the business’s Google My Business listing miscategorized?
  • Site hacked/presence of malware: Has the business’s website been compromised?
  • GMB listing with same address/phone marked as “permanently closed”: Has the location associated with the business been reported as closed?

Local Search Trends: What Drives High Rankings
6. The Top Factors Experts Are Focusing On
Finally, what do SEO experts think has become more important over time?

Survey respondents say the factors they’ve been focusing more on over the past year are:

  • Quality/authority of inbound links to the domain: Is the business getting referenced by high-quality sites?
  • Quantity of Google Posts posted: Is the business regularly using Google Posts, the tool that allows firms to put timely text, video, or photo content in front of customers via Google My Business?
  • Quantity of Native Google reviews (with text): Does the business have a critical mass of written reviews (not just ratings) from customers on Google?
  • Topical product/service keywords of domain content: Does the business’s content include relevant keywords?
  • Association of videos with GMB location: Does the business’s Google My Business listing include video content?

Local Search Trends: What Drives High Rankings

So, what should local businesses make of all this? Two of the biggest takeaways from the report are:

  • Google My Business really, really, really matters. It’s hard to overstate how important GMB has become to local search. To succeed on Google, it is now essential to get the little things right (address, category, etc.) and to optimize your presence via tactics such as utilizing Google Posts, developing rich content, and actively soliciting reviews.
  • Traditional SEO tactics still matter too. While local search is evolving rapidly, many of the foundational tactics of SEO remain highly effective. Don’t neglect approaches such as keyword optimization and developing high-quality inbound links.

As for what the year ahead will bring, Moz’s panel of SEO experts identified three key areas to watch:

  • Google may expand on features and content that answer questions or provide information within local search rather than taking users to websites.
  • Google could increasingly value behavioral signals that indicate the real-world popularity of businesses, such as phone call click-throughs and requests for driving directions.
  • Google might roll out new ad products targeted at local businesses and make moves to take a cut of the sales.

Will these predictions come true? Stay tuned for the 2019 Local Search Rankings Factor Report to find out.

Stay up-to-date on the latest trends in digital advertising. Contact MDG Advertising today at 561-338-7797 or visit mdgadvertising.com.

MDG Advertising, a full-service advertising agency with offices in Boca Raton and New York, NY, is one of Florida’s top branding firms. MDG’s capabilities include print advertising, direct mail marketing, branding, logo design, creative, media buying and planning, radio and TV advertising, outdoor, newspaper, digital marketing, website design and development, online video advertising, infographic development, email marketing, video marketing, mobile marketing, content marketing, social media marketing, paid search marketing, and SEO. To learn more about the latest trends in advertising and branding, contact MDG Advertising today at 561-338-7797 or visit mdgadvertising.com


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